Even though social media has become an all-day every-day affair for us, it’s kind of like some countries having culturally acceptable rape or incest: “normal”… but prehhh-ty effed up. Studies are showing that we’re so distracted by our phones—social media being the dominant app used—that we’re literally mentally handicapped just by having our phones in eyesight.

That’s like child abuse, but with yourself.

This “normal” habit is keeping you from focusing on the essentials, knocking out goals, and occupying your time with proaction and reflection—which is why you either feel out of control, or like you’re stuck. So it’s time to take stock of social media and reassess how big its role is in your day-to-day.

I’ve done social media fasts ranging from days, weeks, months, and years—all of which were preferable to unlimited daily use. But you have friends and family to keep in touch with. So, same for my clients, I’m suggesting you take seven to thirty days off of every social platform to reestablish “normal”, to reclaim your focus and productivity, and to reconnect with the real world.

Think you’re not that bad? Well, here are 15 signs you definitely need a social media cleanse:

1-You’re uninspired

Inspired people do inspiring things. Of all the 99 billion options, social media is not one. Make room for inspiration in your life by trimming the Facebook fat.

2-Your to-do list never gets done

One step at a time—that’s the best advice for accomplishing anything. But our modern world begs for a caveat: One uninterrupted step at a time. Social media competes for your focus and swamps your ability to power through work.

3-You haven’t hung out with real friends in a month

Social media is like porn for friends. You flip open the laptop and get your fix, but it’s not actually satisfying; it’s not the real thing. Trust me…you need the real thing. Research shows that actual friend time is critical to emotional and physical wellbeing.

5-You mindlessly navigate to social media in down time

Success is the sum of dozens of small habits. That means each of your programmed responses are either pushing you forward or pulling you back. Reaching for your smartphone like a zombie…it just doesn’t scream success.

(My clients are regularly baffled by how frequently they start to go for their phones during their fasts…up to thirty times per day!!!)

During your weeklong social cleanse, re-train your brain to fall back on useful things: like mini-mindfulness sessions, or reading a book, or reflecting on what you’re grateful for. See how many success-boosting habits you can form in the gaping void of social media.

6-You have big deadlines coming up

Big projects require massive focus, which can’t exist alongside little distractions. So eliminate the biggest of the little: social media.

Make social cleanses a deadline ritual. They get your head in the game and prime your brain for peak performance.

7-You’re starting to think in terms of Facebook posts

You know it’s bad when a pithy quote pops in your head in the form of a well-received Facebook post. I’m guilty. That’s why I’m writing this article.

8-You’re having problems with impulse control

Whether it’s scarfing an entire bag of popcorn or burning through 10 episodes of Thrones, impulse issues happen when you forget how to say no.

You gain control by saying no often. But continually saying yes to trivial things like Facebook and twitter is a recipe for atrophy. So exercise your executive function with a big no to FB.

Abstain for a week, a month, or however long it takes for you get your proverbial shit together.

9-You’re indecisive

We use social media as a crutch for uncertainty. Instead of identifying the best possible solution and going for it, we turn to social media for an escape. No bueno.

A social cleanse will help cure your indecision and force you to make tough decisions on the spot.

10-You haven’t read a good book in a while

Life is better with books. But it’s hard to read something useful when every spare second is devoted to social media. Use your social fast to start the habit of reading a book—the kind with pages—an hour before bed. It’ll help you fall asleep faster, and life will generally be better.

11-You’re falling behind on fitness goals

You only have so much room in your life for good habits like fitness. Instead of reaching for your phone first thing in the morning, strap on your Fitbit, lace up, and beat feet. When you feel the urge to tweet, bust out some jumping jacks or squats. Do useful things for your body.

12-You feel like you need social media to be okay

You do not need Facebook to be okay. You were happy before you had it, and you’ll be happier without it interrupting your life every 5 minutes.

13-You haven’t done your favorite things

99% of entrepreneurs are human beings that need to have fun to feel okay. Social media feels good, but it prevents you from doing the things you love. Worse, it intrudes on your fun-time when you just have to send an update on whatever it is that people can easily wait three hours or a lifetime without hearing.

Rediscover what it feels like to be a human during your cleanse. Start planning for the fun you’ve been skipping.

14-You feel like you haven’t grown as a person

Personal growth is a product of undistracted reflection. It’s hard enough to assess your thoughts and habits anyway. But when your mind is constantly shifting back to social mode…it’s impossible. Shed your social shackles and get comfy with silence…and your own thoughts!

15-You work from your computer

There’s only so much screen time a person can take before she loses her soul. (I seem to have misplaced the study link.)

If your job keeps you at a desk for 8 hours a day, your stress relief needs to be extra-computeral. You might not lose your soul…but those extra screen hours will definitely tax your eyes and posture.

4-You’re so distracted by social notifications that you forgot to add #4 in a list to fifteen and had to embarrassingly place it at the end of the article instead of in it’s cozy and rightful place between 3 and 5.

This might be more of a personal problem…but maybe you can relate.


I’ve lambasted social media in this article. But really, it’s only as evil as you make it. So get some perspective with a week—or month—long social media cleanse. Then integrate it back into your life in appropriate doses; 15 minutes a day is plenty. Do weekly daylong fasts to prevent it from hijacking your life. And get someone to keep you accountable.

This one small step will immeasurably improve your quality of life and the number of your accomplishments.

Originally published at millennialsuccess.io


  • Daniel Dowling

    Performance Coach, Writer for Greatist, Fitbit.com, Mindbodygreen, and FastCompany.

    Dan Dowling, here. I was the poster child for lost millennials - couldn’t keep a job…addicted to relationships…constantly checking social media and email. But when I got hungry enough for success as a writer, I gave up my distracted lifestyle and adopted one daily goal that changed my life forever: Do. Your. Best. Today, five years later, I’m a productivity coach who’s published on the world’s biggest sites (including Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Mindbodygreen), and I’m transforming lives through the best-effort, zero-distraction lifestyle that worked so well for me. Come and and learn how to always give your best at Millennial Success!